In a lawsuit recently filed, the stars of the 1968 movie adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” allege they endured sexual abuse, harassment, and fraud while filming an explicit scene.

The Franco Zeffirelli blockbuster featuring teenage stars Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting received multiple Oscar nominations, including wins for best cinematography and costume design. Despite both actors being under the age of 18 when filming began, their powerful performances left a lasting impression on audiences worldwide.

The elderly couple, whose romantic saga has been immortalized in literature and film for decades, are demanding that Paramount Pictures pay them more than $500 million for sexually exploiting their likeness without consent by distributing nude imagery of children.

Paramount has so far failed to provide a response to a request for comment.

William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” receives a vivid adaptation in the eponymous movie, focusing on two impassioned youngsters whose families are at odds.

In their lawsuit, the pair claimed that they were told there would be no nudity in the film – only flesh-colored modesty garments. However, near the end of filming, Director Franco Zeffirelli purportedly urged them to do a scene with nothing but body makeup instead. He allegedly threatened that “the picture would fail” if they did not comply and made this request known.

At the time of filming, Hussey and Whiting were just 15 and 16 respectively. According to Variety, they experienced considerable “mental anguish and emotional distress” that led them to miss out on job prospects.

The California statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims was suspended in 2020, opening the door to a surge of cases against organizations and individuals. In particular, Hussey and Whiting’s lawsuit had to be filed by December 31st or it would have been barred forever. Fortunately, they were able to file their claim just before that critical cut-off date!

Tony Marinozzi, the business manager for Hussey and Whiting, said that the actors had been misled by Zeffirelli, who died in 2019.

“What they were told and what went on were two different things,” he stated. “They trusted Franco. At 16, as actors, they took his lead so that he would not violate the trust they had. Franco was their friend, and frankly, at 16, what do they do? There are no options. There was no #MeToo.”

Solomon Gresen, their legal representative, stated that these images of underage “are unlawful and shouldn’t be exhibited.”

“These were very young naive children in the ’60s who had no understanding of what was about to hit them,” he said. “All of a sudden they were famous at a level they never expected, and in addition they were violated in a way they didn’t know how to deal with.”

Previously, during her interviews, Hussey had defended the nudity featured in a 2018 Variety interview and explained Zeffirelli’s directorial direction which was previously perceived as “taboo.”

“Nobody my age had done that before,” she stated. “It was needed for the film.”